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Konnect VHTS (Very High Throughput Satellite) for Europe and Africa

Spacecraft     Launch    Mission Status     References

Konnect is Eutelsat's satellite broadband initiative, operating in Africa, Europe and Russia. Konnect delivers easy, affordable and fast internet, supporting social and economic development by creating new digital roads, especially where terrestrial networks cannot reach.

In April 2018, Eutelsat Communications (Paris, France) announced the order of a next-generation VHTS satellite system named KONNECT VHTS, to support the development of its European fixed broadband and in-flight connectivity businesses. The satellite, which is due to enter into service in 2021, will be built by Thales Alenia Space which will develop a satellite and ground segment solution that is the most competitive on the market today. With a mass of 6.3 tons and a Ka-band capacity of 500 Gbit/s, KONNECT VHTS will embark the most powerful on-board digital processor ever put in orbit, offering capacity allocation flexibility, optimal spectrum use, and progressive ground network deployment. 1)

Neosat program: The new Spacebus Neo product line is developed in the frame of ESA's ARTES (Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems) program, in cooperation with space agencies from ESA Member States, and managed jointly by ESA and CNES.

The Neosat program comprises both Spacebus Neo by Thales Alenia Space and Eurostar Neo by Airbus Defence and Space. It includes development up to in-orbit validation of the new satellite product lines for both companies, allowing European industry to deliver competitive satellites for the commercial satellite market.

The KONNECT satellite will allow the in-orbit validation of the complete end-to-end system of the new Spacebus Neo product line, including the fully electric orbit-raising phase.

The future communications system referred to as 5G represents far more than just the next generation of terrestrial mobile services. It will drive a convergence of fixed and mobile services, introduce a new set of technologies and standards, create a network of networks and facilitate communications between everyone and everything, whilst focusing on some key vertical markets. 2)

Satellite systems have useful attributes for 5G in terms of security, resilience, coverage, mobility and delivery of broadband; and in this future environment the choice of communication technology should be transparent to the end user and based upon location, type of service and cost efficiency. 5G thus provides a major opportunity for the space sector to deliver parts of the future generation of communications networks and services.

Accordingly, ESA and the European space industry have joined forces to develop and demonstrate the added value that satellite brings to 5G. On 21 June 2017, at the Paris Air and Space show, ESA and 16 satellite industry leaders signed a Joint Statement (JS) on their collaboration in the realm of ‘Satellite for 5G'. As part of an initiative for the period 2018–20 and beyond, ESA will work together with satellite operators, service providers and manufacturers on:

- 5G service trials, with a focus on selected vertical market sectors targeted by 5G such as transport, public safety and media and entertainment;

- cross-cutting activities in the areas of applications development, standardization, resource management, interoperability demonstrations and supporting technologies; and

- outreach activities.

Crucially, these efforts align with and build upon the existing initiatives of the European Commission on 5G and are intended to complement other European, national and international initiatives.

Indeed the JS advocates further convergence between European industry and institutions on 5G, which was reiterated at the ESA/European Space Policy Institute conference in Brussels on ‘Space and Satcom for 5G: European Transport and Connected Mobility', 27–28 June 2017. As the conference noted, ESA is defining a framework to support future industrial activities and is working with the EC in particular to coordinate and strengthen institutional support in Europe for satellite-5G convergence.

The ARTES Next Generation Platform element, Neosat, is the ESA program to support the European satellite industry to develop the "Next Generation Platform". The program is specifically aimed at developing, and demonstrating in orbit, new satellite platform product lines for 3 to 6 ton geostationary satellites, in partnership with industry. 3)

The objective of the ESA Neosat program is to develop and qualify two new satellite product lines, Eurostar Neo and Spacebus Neo. The program includes the in-orbit validation of the new platforms. Neosat is a joint ESA/CNES undertaking with shared program management. The new product lines are aiming at significant cost reduction for in-orbit data capacity achieved through:

• Full electric propulsion for both orbit raising and station keeping

• Reduced time for assembly, integration and testing thanks to modular design

• Easier payload accommodation for a large range of payloads

• Compatibility with Ariane, Proton and Falcon launcher families.

An important goal of the Neosat program is to build a European supply chain which optimizes costs and guarantees on-time delivery of satellites. It will be necessary to achieve high industrial and technical performance from suppliers in order for this to succeed. Some items, such as Xenon tanks and Electric Propulsion thrusters, are being developed in common for both Spacebus Neo and Eurostar Neo to benefit from economies of scales.

In addition to optimizing the supply chain, another challenge is for each prime to design a modular product line, incorporating the right mix of new and proven technologies, capable of embarking a wide range of payloads, including the latest technologies in that field, and compatible with the changing launcher landscape.

Both Eurostar Neo and Spacebus Neo passed the Preliminary Design Review in early 2015. Phase B was completed in 2015. Separate Phase C/D contracts were signed with both primes at the end of 2015, each of which leads its own European consortium.

• In October 2015, TAS (Thales Alenia Space) has won the first Spacebus Neo commercial satellite contract for a Broadband for Africa mission with Eutelsat (BB4A) to be launched in 2019.

• Airbus DS (France) is the prime contractor for Eurostar Neo.

Table 1: Some background of the ARTES program at ESA 2) 3) 4)



This high-capacity broadband satellite will deliver significant resources for broadband services across Europe and Africa and set a new benchmark for flexibility in High Throughput Satellites.

Providing 75 Gbit/s of capacity across a network of 65 spotbeams, which together provide quasi-complete coverage of Sub-Saharan Africa, the satellite will address direct-to-user consumer and enterprise broadband services using dishes from approximately 75 cm. It will also be used for community networks connected to Wi-Fi hotspots, mobile phone backhauling and rural connectivity.

Spacebus Neo is based on a modular concept. It is designed to be as quick and cost-effective to build as possible, while also being easily customized to fit the satellite owner's mission.

It consists of a generic service module, made of an avionics module built by Thales Alenia Space in Cannes, France, and a propulsion module designed by Thales Alenia Space in the UK and built in Thales UK's new Space Propulsion Integration and Manufacturing Center in Belfast. The generic service module is assembled in Cannes with the mission-specific payload module built in Thales Alenia Space in Toulouse, France.

Prime contractor

Thales Alenia Space

Spacecraft design lifetime

15 years

Orbital position

Geostationary orbit

Payload power

up to 20 kW

Satellite launch mass

up to 7.6 tons


Compatible with all major launch vehicles

Table 2: Spacebus Neo product line: Facts and figures 5)


Development status

• 17 January 2020: Eutelsat KONNECT satellite has been launched on 16 January on board an European Ariane 5 rocket. The satellite will provide broadband internet services to Africa. For this new generation of European telecommunications satellites, RUAG Space produced mechanisms that point the satellite's electrical engines. The electric propulsion is necessary to bring the satellite exactly into its position and to maintain this position over the lifetime of several years. "To have designed and produced such a complex mechanism in a very short time frame is an extraordinary technical achievement," says Peter Guggenbach, Executive Vice President RUAG Space. "Our mechanisms are a key element of this new type of all-electric satellite." 6)

- The all-electric Eutelsat KONNECT spacecraft is the first satellite built on the new Spacebus Neo platform from Thales Alenia Space. Electric engines consume significantly less fuel than chemical engines, for example. The Electric Propulsion Pointing Mechanisms (EPPM) were delivered from RUAG Space to Thales Alenia Space, the satellite builder. The mechanisms will be mounted on Eutelsat KONNECT satellite. In total RUAG Space developed and produced 12 mechanisms at its site in Vienna, Austria.

- The EPPM is able to accommodate and point 5 kW plasma thrusters with its associated electrical harness and propellant feed lines. It was carefully designed to minimize mass, isolate the thruster mechanical launch loads, manage orbital temperature extremes and deliver exact pointing accuracy over a 15 years' service lifetime. For the Eutelsat satellite RUAG Space also delivered the central tube, the "backbone" of the satellite, and slip rings.

• 13 January 2020: The satellite has completed its short and efficient launch campaign. Teams at the launch site have conducted all tests and inspections, and confirmed that sub-systems are flight ready. 7)

- The satellite was placed on the upper position of the secondary payload adapter and then within the fairing. These assembled parts have now been fitted on top of the launcher, during the last major step of the mechanical integration of the Ariane 5 rocket.

- The satellite is now ready to be launched on 16 January, for the first Ariane launch of 2020, flight VA251.

- After the launch of Konnect, the Spacebus Neo program will continue to introduce further innovative technologies to the next satellites to be launched.

- So far Thales Alenia Space has sold seven Spacebus Neo satellites. The next six missions will be: the French government's Syracuse-4; SES-17; another two Eutelsat missions called Konnect Very High Throughput Satellite and Eutelsat 10B, which will provide connectivity services for aviation and maritime transport; Satria, which will be operated by the Indonesian operator Pasifik Satelit Nusantara; and Amazonas Nexus for Hispasat, a Spanish operator, which will deliver high-capacity mobility services for aviation and maritime transport.

• 20 November 2019: Konnect, the first Spacebus Neo satellite built by Thales Alenia Space as prime contractor on behalf of operator Eutelsat, has completed its tests and is ready to be shipped to its launch site in French Guiana. 8)

- Spacebus Neo is part of Neosat, a Partnership Project to develop and qualify next-generation platforms that allow the two main European satellite integrators, Thales Alenia Space and Airbus, to deliver competitive satellites for the commercial telecommunications satellite market.

- Today, just four years since the start of the product line developments, 10 Neosat-based satellites (six Spacebus Neo and four Eurostar Neo) have already been sold by European industry, generating 15 times the return on investment to the programs participating states and their industries, according to an independent analysis by Euroconsult.

- While the Konnect satellite is coming out of Thales Alenia Space factory in France, it is the result of a true European cooperation and a remarkable collaboration between ESA and the French space agency CNES.

- The satellite and its product line include hardware and software components developed all over Europe, with major elements coming from Austria, Belgium, Italy, Sweden and the UK, alongside other important contributions from Czech Republic, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Switzerland.

- Partnership Projects such as Neosat federate European industry around large-scale programs, developing innovative cutting-edge solutions in partnership with private but also potentially public players. This approach allows European prime contractors and equipment suppliers to be competitive in the global market.

- Partnership Projects such as Neosat federate European industry around large-scale programs, developing innovative cutting-edge solutions in partnership with private but also potentially public players. This approach allows European prime contractors and equipment suppliers to be competitive in the global market.

- Jean-Loïc Galle, President and Chief Executive Officer of Thales Alenia Space, said: "We are very proud to present our first all-electric Spacebus Neo satellite today, alongside our legacy customer Eutelsat.

- "Konnect combines innovation and in-orbit heritage to offer a fully modular platform along with an innovative and intelligent payload to provide high throughput, highly agile services in Ka-band.

- "This technological success has been possible thanks to the support from the European and French space agencies, which helped us develop Spacebus Neo, and from the French Investment in the Future Plan, for high-throughput capabilities."

- Magali Vaissiere, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at the European Space Agency, said: "Creating Spacebus Neo, a completely new product line, and in parallel meeting the schedule of the first satellite Konnect has been quite a challenge, which Thales Alenia Space and its consortium have brilliantly mastered".

- Konnect will now be flown on a cargo plane to its launch site at Kourou in French Guiana. It is due to be launched in January 2020.

• 06 September 2019: The first Spacebus Neo satellite – Konnect, a high-throughput satellite ordered by Eutelsat – has successfully completed its mechanical test campaign in Thales Alenia Space facilities in Cannes, France. 9)

- The project partners – ESA, Thales Alenia Space, CNES and Eutelsat – were very pleased by the performance achieved.

- "Despite exposure to the most extreme mechanical loads, the first Spacebus Neo has performed fantastically – as have the teams in Cannes who have performed this critical test campaign in record time," said François Balme, ESA system manager.

- While the satellite will continue to be prepared for delivery to the launch site, the data from this test campaign will be used to validate the product line in readiness for a qualification review to be held later this year.

- Now that the environmental tests are over, the satellite will undergo a thorough verification before it is finally prepared for launch.

- ESA Partnership Projects allow European industry to maintain and continue developing their competitiveness on the worldwide commercial market and enable greater risk sharing, where ESA bears the risks related to the development of innovative solutions and the partner assumes the commercial risks to respond to market needs.


Figure 1: Photo of the Konnect satellite in the acoustic chamber (image credit: Thales Alenia Space)

- The Neosat program comprises both Spacebus Neo by Thales Alenia Space and Eurostar Neo by Airbus. It includes development up to in-orbit validation of the new satellite product lines for both companies, allowing European industry to deliver competitive satellites for the global commercial market.

• 27 June 2019: The thermal vacuum test campaign of the first Spacebus Neo satellite was completed on 25 June. Less than 100 meters from the Mediterranean Sea, the Konnect satellite has spent the past six weeks being exposed to the cold emptiness of space. 10)

- These enormous test chambers, which can be cooled to minus 180 Celsius, are designed to accommodate an entire spacecraft and effectively replicate the extreme thermal conditions that will be experienced in orbit.

- This complex end-to-end test is critical for the development of the Spacebus Neo product line and will allow the validation and fine tuning of the mathematical simulation tools needed to design the thermal management systems of future missions.

- ESA's Partnership Programs form part of its program of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) and maximize the benefits to industry thanks to the efficient co-management between the agency and industry.

- Final assembly of the Konnect satellite will continue over the coming weeks, including the installation of solar arrays and the large payload antennas. Once complete, it will be mechanically tested to demonstrate that the satellite can withstand the rigors of launch.


Figure 2: The first Spacebus Neo satellite has undergone tests in space-like conditions (image credit: ESA)

- The Spacebus Neo product line is developed in the frame of ESA's ARTES program and the French PIA ("Programme d'Investissement d'Avenir"), in cooperation with space agencies from ESA Member States, and managed jointly by ESA and the French Space Agency, CNES.

- The Neosat program comprises both Spacebus Neo by Thales Alenia Space and Eurostar Neo by Airbus. It includes development up to in-orbit validation of the new satellite product lines for both companies, allowing European industry to deliver competitive satellites for the global commercial market.

• 07 May 2019: Eutelsat Communications has selected the Hughes JUPITER™ System from Hughes Network Systems, LLC (HUGHES) to enable services on its KONNECT new-generation High-Throughput Satellite (HTS) for Western Europe and Africa — the agreement calls for Hughes to supply a significant part of the ground network system for KONNECT, which is expected to launch in 2019. 11)

- The JUPITER System is the next generation platform for VSAT networks, designed and optimized for broadband services over both high-throughput and conventional satellites. Incorporating the wideband DVB-S2X industry standard and designed with a powerful System on a Chip, JUPITER enables very high overall efficiency and fast packet processing rates. It powers HughesNet®, with 1.3 million subscribers across the Americas, the largest satellite Internet service in the world.

- Eutelsat's Ka-band KONNECT satellite is designed to deliver direct-to-user consumer and enterprise broadband services and will also be used for community networks connected to Wi-Fi hotspots, mobile system backhauling and rural connectivity.

- Yohann Leroy, Deputy CEO and CTO of Eutelsat said the company is committed to delivering easy, affordable and fast internet through the KONNECT satellite broadband initiative. To do that, needed was a ground network solution that can enable the efficiency and performance that their KONNECT satellite is designed to deliver, and that is why the Hughes JUPITER System was selected.

• 7 March 2019: KONNECT will be the first satellite delivered from the Spacebus Neo product line ‘factory'. The assembly of service and payload modules represents a major milestone in the development of this new product line. 12)

- On 28 February 2019, Thales Alenia Space united the service and payload modules of the first Spacebus Neo satellite, KONNECT, a high throughput satellite ordered by Eutelsat.


Figure 3: Neosat mating Konnect at TAS Cannes (image credit: ESA - M. Pedoussaut)

• 01 March 2019: Eutelsat Communications announced the successful mating of the platform and payload of the KONNECT satellite, conducted this week at Thales Alenia Space's facilities in Cannes. This operation is a major step in the construction of the satellite, in preparation for its launch by the end of this year. 13)

• On 27 December 2018, Thales Alenia Space assembled the avionics and Xenon propulsion modules to form the service module of the first Spacebus Neo satellite, KONNECT, a high throughput satellite ordered by Eutelsat. 14)

- The avionics module was built in Thales Alenia Space (TAS) facilities in Cannes and houses all the functions required to power, control and monitor the satellite.

- The Xenon propulsion module (XPS) was assembled in Belfast by Thales UK and shipped to Cannes in the week before Christmas. It is the structural backbone of the satellite and contains the electric propulsion system to both raise the satellite to its operational orbital position and keep it in place during its 15 years of operational lifetime.


Figure 4: Photo of the first assembled Spacebus Neo module is pictured at Thales Alenia Space, Cannes, France (image credit: TAS)

- The resulting service module makes a perfect space vessel for the telecommunications payload, which will be installed onto it, fully tested, and then launched into space. After reaching its final geostationary orbit, the satellite will provide telecommunication capabilities customized to satisfy the requirements of the operator.

- Substantial schedule gains can be achieved thanks to the parallel production of these modules. In fact, lead time is an important decision factor when operators have to select the manufacturer of a satellite amongst various competitors.

- Through an innovative design and optimized industrial flow, the service module is standardized and can handle launch masses in the range of 3 to 6 Tons with minimal adaptation.

- This service module packs the latest state-of-the-art equipment from all over Europe, with Spacebus Neo key technologies developed in France, UK, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

- The KONNECT satellite will allow the in-orbit validation of the complete end-to-end system of the new Spacebus Neo product line, including the fully electric orbit-raising phase.

- Stéphane Lascar, Head of Telecommunications Satellite Programs Department in ESA said: "We are extremely pleased with the excellent results of our Partnership Programs like Neosat. The results and feedback received from all parties is a demonstration of the continued trust that space industry, operators and national ESA delegations place in ESA for managing large-scale partnership programs. The involved European industrial partners benefit from maximized returns and opportunities resulting from the efficient co-management of the Partnership Programs, tailored to commercial best practices."

Launch: The all-electric Konnect satellite was launched on 16 January 2020 (21.05 GMT) with Ariane 5 ECA from Kourou. The flight of Arianespace, designated VA251, launched the Eutelsat Konnect and the ISRO GSAT 30 communications satellites. Konnect, with a launch mass of 3619 kg, was the first to be released after about 27 minutes. The second satellite – the 3357 kg GSAT-30 – was released 11 minutes after Konnect. Overall the performance requested for the launch was about 7,888 kg. The satellites totalled about 6,976 kg, with payload adapters and carrying structures making up the rest. 15)

Orbit: GEO. The objective is to provide broadband to Europe and Africa. Konnect Africa provides extensive satellite coverage of Sub-Saharan Africa for the delivery of high quality broadband services.

Eutelsat Konnect is expected to enter commercial service this fall after the slow, multi-month orbit-raising campaign.


Figure 5: Ariane 5 flight VA251 lifted off from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana and delivered two telecom satellites, Konnect and GSAT-30, into their planned orbits (image credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace - Optique Vidéo du CSG)


Figure 6: Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The Ariane 5 launch pad in shown in the center foreground of the picture. Behind this, to the left is the Final Assembly Building where the launcher and it's payload are integrated and prepared for launch. Next to this on the right is the Launcher Integration Building. In the distance behind the Launcher Integration Building is the Booster Integration Building and the test stand for ground static test firing of solid rocket motors (image credit: ESA, S. Corvaja)


Figure 7: Illustration of the Konnect satellite in orbit (image credit: TAS, ESA)



Mission status

• 25 February 2021: Disruptive services and innovative features of the next generation of secure satellite communications will be analyzed following the signing of a new memorandum of understanding. 16)

- The agreement extends the cooperation between ESA and the European Defence Agency (EDA), an EU body that promotes and facilitates integration between member states within the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy.


Figure 8: Artists impression of a secure communications satellite. Telecommunications are becoming increasingly crucial to our society, economy and security, including in support of Europe's strategic autonomy (image credit: ESA)

- Telecommunications are becoming increasingly crucial to our society, economy and security, including in support of Europe's strategic autonomy.

- In response, ESA and EDA are working together to develop secure and resilient satellite communications that respond to the evolving needs of EU member states while strengthening the competitiveness of the European space industry.

- The agreement supports ESA's ongoing work to foster resilient digital systems in space.

- It will help to identify systems architectures that can respond to a wide set of user requirements in the field of secure communications. EDA will be invited to take part in ESA's exploratory systems study to provide expertise, information, data and a channel to its user communities, who may have a stake in ESA's study.

- Once the study results are available later this year, ESA and EDA will explore further coordinated steps towards the evolution and preparation of next-generation secure satellite communication systems, with the support of the ESA Security Office. These will ensure the seamless implementation of the ESA security framework as an enabler to secure the development of space systems.

- Jiří Šedivý, EDA Chief Executive, said: "Nowadays, neither national nor multinational military operations are anymore conceivable without the support of space-based systems, especially secure and resilient satellite communication, and their importance keeps growing.

- "The Coordinated Annual Review on Defence, which delivered a first-ever comprehensive defence review conducted at EU level, specifically underlined the importance of cooperation in space and identified ‘Defence in Space' as one of the most pressing, most needed and most impacting areas for cooperation and future investment in EU defence.

- "Therefore, increased cooperation between ESA and EDA in this specific domain will not only be beneficial for our member states and industry, but also contribute to strengthening Europe's defence capabilities".

- Jan Wörner, ESA Director General, said: "Over the years, our two agencies have undertaken no less than eight formal cooperation projects, ranging across most space domains. Our partnership is solid and will support ESA Member States and help ensure a resilient civil infrastructure and robust services for citizens."

• 23 November 2020: Leveraging the availability of the EUTELSAT KONNECT satellite, Eutelsat Communications' (Paris:ETL) (Euronext Paris: ETL) new direct arm, konnect, has kick-started the retail distribution of next-generation satellite broadband across Europe and Africa. The service is currently being rolled out across both continents, with broadband packages designed to address the needs of individuals, small businesses and institutions currently operating beyond the fiber footprint. 17)

- The recent acquisition of BigBlu, Europe's leading distributor of satellite broadband, has added significant firepower to konnect's retail capabilities. With regulatory approvals to operate across both continents secured, konnect has launched a multi-channel retail strategy encompassing online distribution and telesales in Europe and a multiple channel partners and retail stores in Africa.

- In complement to the recent wholesale agreements with Orange for the entire capacity in France and TIM for capacity covering Italy, initial retail distribution will be focused on the UK, Ireland, Germany, Spain and Portugal in Europe and Côte d'Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa, ramping up progressively to cover the 15 European and 39 African markets in EUTELSAT KONNECT's footprint.

- As it accelerates its operation, konnect is rapidly re-defining connectivity expectations for people who live and work beyond the fiber footprint, offering them an immediately available service with packages offering:

- Superfast speeds of up to 100 Mbit/s from launch; ensuring those situated beyond the scope of traditional networks, can enjoy fiber-like speeds; Unlimited data plans addressing needs ranging from individuals, households, small businesses, schools and other institutions.

- Commenting on the campaign, Eutelsat Deputy CEO Michel Azibert said, "We are delighted to see konnect ramping up its marketing efforts in the wake of the availability of the significant new in-orbit assets brought by EUTELSAT KONNECT. ‘konnect' is the name of our satellite and our brand, articulating in a single word, an exciting new direction for the Eutelsat Group. At a time when the demand for reliable, affordable high-speed broadband has never been higher, konnect offers an immediately accessible solution for individuals, businesses and institutions living beyond the reach of terrestrial infrastructure."

• 23 September 2020: Telecommunications are becoming increasingly crucial to our society, economy and security. ESA is supporting the European satellite communication industry's efforts to identify how to meet future worldwide demands for more secure and resilient digital systems. 18)

- Earlier this month ESA initiated two parallel studies to envisage the shape of the future secure telecommunications market and to clarify which solutions and disruptive technologies will be needed.

- The results will inform work undertaken between 2021 and 2023 as part of its program of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems. This will enable ESA to help European and Canadian industry to prosper in the highly competitive global market for secure satellite communications.

- The telecommunications satellite market is changing. A wave of innovation has created a wide range of new solutions and services, such as very high capacity geostationary satellites, flexible spacecraft for dynamic resources allocation, constellations of nanosatellites providing internet-of-things services and large constellations of broadband satellites operating in low Earth orbit.

- These innovations could equip Europe or other regions with a satellite infrastructure able to provide services for safety critical applications.

- Air-traffic management, maritime management and civil protection, as well as private markets such as industrial processes monitoring and financial markets all need ubiquitous, secure, autonomous, accessible and resilient communication. Adding a tailor-made, large-scale next-generation satellite communications component to existing global digital infrastructure would make this a reality in Europe and worldwide.

- Two consortia – one led by satellite manufacturer Airbus and one led by satellite operator Eutelsat – have won contracts to clarify how to achieve this technically and programmatically in the most effective, cost-efficient and timely way.

- They will examine such considerations as: what is the optimal combination of satellite configurations? Should the next generation of satellite infrastructure rely heavily on large high-throughput geostationary satellites and what role could be played by constellations of much smaller satellites in low Earth orbit? Is there a case for a combined use of the two within an integrated, evolutionary system? What are the key underlying technologies to enable the new infrastructure, both for space and ground components? What timescales are involved in their deployment? And what is the right balance of public and private contributions?

- The collaborations between ESA and Airbus, on the one hand, and Eutelsat on the other, shall help to quickly identify ways to make the next-generation satellite communication infrastructure available as soon as possible, in line with other projects in other parts of the world.

- Elodie Viau, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA, said: "These two parallel studies will detail the visions of the next-generation, end-to-end satellite communication systems. The studies will help define how best to prepare industry in Europe and Canada for future world competitiveness in the secure satellite market.

- "The results may also help support any European initiative to ensure its satellite communication system remains one of the most advanced in the world. We look forward to working with all the relevant European bodies to realize this vision."

- The consortia are due to make their reports by the end of February 2021.


Figure 9: Mega constellations (image credit: SaVi)

• 10 September 2020: Eutelsat Communications (Euronext Paris: ETL) has reached an agreement with Bigblu Broadband to acquire its European satellite broadband activities. 19)

- Bigblu Broadband is the largest distributor of satellite broadband packages in Europe with a proven track record, as evidenced by its success as the main Gold member of Euro Broadband Infrastructure's Preferred Partnership Program since 2019. Bigblu Broadband has developed a well-established platform for satellite broadband, relying on a unique network of installers and resellers. The activities to be acquired by Eutelsat (BBB Europe) currently count around 50,000 subscribers across an expanding pan-European footprint which includes operations in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Hungary and Greece.

- The agreement coincides with the entry into service of EUTELSAT KONNECT, due to start gradually from fall 2020 with operation at full capacity expected from early 2021, bringing capacity in high-demand areas, improved end-user experience and unparalleled economics and flexibility.

- With its scalable platform for direct sales including digital marketing platforms, multi-lingual call centers, billing and CRM systems, the integration of BBB Europe will enable Eutelsat to overcome the limitations of its existing indirect model by offering enhanced access to the end-user, direct control over product definition and price for faster alignment with market needs, and increased control of distribution levers including sales force incentives, communication and promotions. The addition of this retail channel as a complement to wholesale agreements with telecom operators, such as the recent deal with Orange in France, will favor an accelerated ramp-up of upcoming capacity and the maximization of customer value over time.

- Commenting, Rodolphe Belmer of Eutelsat said: "We are delighted to integrate the activities of BBB Europe which will greatly enhance our European broadband distribution network as we progressively bring into service next-generation capacity in the form of EUTELSAT KONNECT and KONNECT VHTS, capable of bringing fiber-like high speed internet connection to the many areas in Europe that remain unserved or under-served by terrestrial infrastructure. This deal represents an important step in our broader Broadband strategy."

• 17 January 2020: The EUTELSAT KONNECT satellite was successfully launched into GTO (Geostationary Transfer Orbit) by Arianespace using an Ariane 5 rocket that lifted off from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, at 21:05 pm UTC (22:05 CET) on January 16. 20)

- The separation of the all-electric satellite occurred after a 27-minute flight and the spacecraft systems checkout was successfully completed over a period of 3 hours.

- Built by Thales Alenia Space, the EUTELSAT KONNECT communications satellite, features all-electric propulsion and operates in Ka-band. It is the first satellite to use Thales Alenia Space's all-electric Spacebus NEO platform, developed under the Neosat Partnership Project conducted by the European and French space agencies (ESA and CNES).

- EUTELSAT KONNECT will assure full or partial coverage for up to 40 countries across Africa and 15 over Europe. Offering total capacity of 75 Gbit/s, by next autumn this high throughput satellite will allow the operator to provide Internet access services for both companies and individuals at up to 100 Mbit/s.

- Rodolphe Belmer, CEO of Eutelsat: "Our congratulations to Arianespace and the Guiana Space Center teams for successfully launching our EUTELSAT KONNECT satellite towards geostationary orbit. The collaboration between Eutelsat, Thales Alenia Space and Arianespace on this ambitious satellite program has resulted in a world-first broadband satellite for the African and European continents that demonstrates the suitability of satellite infrastructure as a means to deliver high quality broadband services, contributing to bridging the digital divide within rural areas."


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12) "Coming together," ESA, 7 March 2019, URL:

13) "Successful mating of Eutelsat's KONNECT satellite payload with its all-electric platform," Eutelsat Press Release, 01 March 2019, URL:

14) "First Spacebus Neo service module assembled," ESA, 14 January 2019, URL:

15) "First Spacebus Neo satellite launched," ESA / Applications / Telecommunications & Integrated Applications, 16 January 2020, URL:

16) "Deal signed to boost secure satellite communications," ESA / Applications / Telecommunications & Integrated Applications, 25 February 2021, URL:

17) "Eutelsat Kicks Off The Retail Distribution Of konnect Satellite Broadband," Satnews, 23 November 2020, URL:

18) "Satcom to foster resilient digital systems," ESA Applications, 23 September 2020, URL:

19) "Eutelsat to acquire European satellite broadband activities of Bigblu Broadband," Bigblu, 10 September 2020, URL:

20) "Successful launch of EUTELSAT KONNECT," Eutelsat Press Release, 17 January, 2020, URL:

The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (

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